The first day of school can be an anxious experience for both parents and children alike. It’s often fraught with uncertainty and nerves and can leave a lot of parents feeling helpless.
However, there are a range of ways that you can help to prepare your child for school that you can start doing today. These suggestions connect with the school-readiness programs that are run in a lot of kindergartens and pre-prep educational facilities.
Working with your child to ensure they can help themselves in terms of self-care will be a great way to help prepare your child for school.
Go through processes for things like:
- Washing hands after using the toilet
- Putting on and taking off uniform items (particularly things like jumpers)
- Keeping track of belongings
- Opening, closing, packing and organising lunch boxes
- Putting on sunscreen
A lot the things listed above will give your child a sense of ownership and independence when it comes to managing their own bodies. Feeling in control will help to promote resilience – that ‘get up and get back to it’ quality that we so want our children to develop. Focusing on self-care prior to them starting school will go a long way towards helping them successfully transition.
Helping your child to become more aware of their own behaviour and emotional responses will also go a long way towards helping prepare your child for school.
Emotional responses are a natural part of life – particularly when you’re small and everything feels so huge! Your child is likely to feel nervous and that can manifest in a number of ways. Some children may become angry, some withdrawn and some may appear to become more immature as they respond to this huge change.
Speak often with your child about how they are feeling and help them to process bigger emotions that are perplexing them. It’s easy to sometimes dismiss a child lashing out as ‘naughtiness’ but it’s often something way more complex than just a bit of cheek. Try to work with your child to get to the core of what they’re feeling, why they feel it and how they might be able to move forward.
Feel rushed in the mornings? That panic and anxiousness can definitely feed through to your child.
Involve your child in daily preparations. The night before school, go through laying out uniforms and packing lunch boxes. Providing opportunities for responsibility can lead to ownership and a sense of control – perfect for nerves.
Practice doing things like this in the lead up to school starting. Set alarms, get dressed and get out the door. Practice makes perfect! Getting into the ‘let’s get there’ procedure so the child knows what to expect is a great way to prepare your child for school. Plus – it’ll be a huge time saver once term properly begins!
The age that children are when they start school differs across the states and territories. This means that your child will be in a class where other students may greatly differ in terms of physical size and ability, as well as emotional maturity.
Work with your child to help them be aware of themselves and how they interact with others within spaces. What does ‘safe playing’ with others look like? What kind of play is ‘unsafe’? How do people get hurt during games? How can you try to play games in a safe way so people don’t get hurt? Workshopping different social scenarios may help your child develop their understanding of boundaries and how to work successfully with others.
This last one isn’t about the child – it’s about you! Your child will be looking TO YOU to see how they should be feeling about starting at ‘big school’. Children take a lot of their cues for how they should be responding from the behaviour of the adults closest to you. Be aware of little eyes on you.
Is your anxiety about your child starting school feeding into your child’s insecurities? How do you speak about school, teachers and education in your house? Will your child have a positive or negative frame of mind before they begin their formal education?
Asking yourself about how YOU can prepare YOURSELF for this huge change may make your child’s educational journey a little easier.
How to prepare your child for school – ask the experts
Your child’s kindergarten or pre-prep teachers are going to be able to give you a lot of feedback and suggestions about working with your child to be school-ready. They’re professional educators with a wealth of experience who should be more than happy to have these conversations with you.
Good luck, take lots of photos and celebrate this hugely significant milestone for your family!
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